Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece, 10564
- Recommended for:
- Business travellers, Couples, Mature travellers, Seasoned travellers, Celebrity spotting, History, Sightseeing, Special occasions
Best for Luxury - Expert review of Grande Bretagne
I've always loved the 'GB' or 'Megali Vretania', as it's known in Greek. The city's only real heritage hotel, it's where prospective employers take you for lunch, great aunts treat you to afternoon tea, and potential lovers take you on a first date. An Athenian landmark since 1874, the GB was souped-up by Starwood with a $100 million restoration in 2003. Behind the Neoclassical façade, polished period interiors conceal 21st century comforts. Unlike many Greek hotels, here the high standard of service lives up to the glitzy décor. Easily the classiest place to stay in the city centre.
The poshest address in the capital: opposite Parliament, overlooking the National Gardens, within strolling distance of the Acropolis and the ‘Museum Mile’ of Vassilisis Sofias Avenue.
290 rooms and 31 suites come in seven different categories, which might make booking a bit confusing. But the difference is in the size rather than the standards. All bedrooms have swag curtains, padded headboards, a pillow menu, and ritzy marble bathrooms. It's all very typical of fancy chain hotels anywhere in the world, but it's done with panache. The biggest drawback is the lack of outdoor space. Sixth floor rooms do have small verandas, but Grande Executive corner suites have the best views. Avoid rooms at the rear overlooking a nondescript courtyard. Big spenders can splash out on the 400-sq m Royal Suite with private gym, humidor and wine cellar. The master bedroom – with a custom-made bed two metres wide – is hidden behind a revolving bookcase.
The gleaming Beaux Arts lobby is a lovely place to linger. It leads into the Winter Garden, a skylit atrium where eye-wateringly expensive coffee is served by gracious waitresses in tight-fitting uniforms. The Roof Garden bar and restaurant is one of the most glamorous spots in the city. But it's often hard to find a spot at the bar on summer nights, so I'd suggest booking ahead for 'front row' seats overlooking the Parthenon.
A buffet breakfast is served on the Roof Garden, from where the Parthenon is in close-up and the skyline stretches as far as the sea. It’s even more spectacular at night – but the view comes with a high price at lunch and dinner. The Italian menu which includes dishes such as beef carpaccio with beetroot salad and mango vinaigrette and rocket and taleggio ravioli is fairly predictable. The Winter Garden is an elegant setting for Afternoon Tea (served from noon until 8pm), where you can nibble on very un-Greek treats like crabmeat and cucumber sandwiches and scones with clotted cream. The adjacent Alexander Bar is sultry and intimate – a great place to bring a not-cheap date. There’s also a cigar bar on the first floor, with an impressive selection of cognac and malt whiskey. The art deco GB Corner – a popular lunch spot for MPs pre-austerity – is renowned for its steaks and burgers. Executive chef Sotiris Evangelou (poached from the Athens Intercontinental) has added Greek classics like garides saganaki (prawns sautéed in ouzo, tomato and feta). If you're desperate to impress, hire the brick-and-oak cellar (stocked with 330 wines) for private dining.
The swimming pool on the seventh floor is exclusively for hotel guests. But the basement E’SPA, with its palm-filled atrium, herbal steam rooms, marble foot spas, and ozone-and-mineral water pool is popular with moneyed locals, so book well ahead (2-5 days’ notice is recommended for treatments). Signature treatments range from a yoghurt-and-honey body wrap, to the rather less appealing ouzo oil massage (presumably not great for hangovers). The Yianni Hair Spa also offers pricey manicures and pedicures.
From the liveried doormen (who politely ignore the stray dogs asleep at their feet) to the well-informed concierge, the GB has a well-deserved reputation for excellent service. Rooms on the sixth and seventh floors come with 24-hour butlers, who will arrange anything from private tours to plane rides.
Every visiting VIP from Jimmy Carter to Jean Paul Gaultier. Opposite Parliament and surrounded by ministries, the GB has always been the Greek government’s unofficial guesthouse. It is also popular with American tourists and businessmen with generous expense accounts.
An Acropolis view (third floor and up, facing east) comes with a hefty 115 euro surcharge.
High-maintenance guests can request butler service for an extra 25 euros a day (7am-11pm).
There are Pure Rooms for the allergy-prone or germ-phobic, for a 40 euro premium.
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- Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece, 10564
- Business Centre, Fitness Centre, High-Speed Internet, Pets Allowed, Restaurant, Room Service, Swimming Pool
- Syntagma Square